By, Kyle Gibson
After celebrating in offices across America, US soccer fans settled in to watch and see who the opponent would be for the Round of 16. After being treated to a real Group of Death, another daunting task awaits, Belgium.
The Belgians are loaded with star power from essentially every big league in Europe, especially the English Premier League. The high amount of American audience the Premier League receives has made Belgium many people’s dark-horse World Cup contender across the US and around the globe. Actually, Belgium was the dark horse of so many leading into the tournament that the team has in many cases become a favorite.
I, your humble blogger, am here to tell you that things could have been so much worse than drawing Belgium and the Belgians are in fact highly beatable.
There’s no denying that Belgium has plenty of star power. Midfielders include Chelsea star Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne of Wolfsburg, Moussa Demble and Nacer Chadli of Tottenham and (for a lesser part) Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United.
Then there are the forwards! Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Kevin Mirallas! The defenders! Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen! The goalkeeper! Thibaut Courtois is one of the best goalkeepers on Earth and is only 22 years old.
These individual stars so far this tournament are just that, though, individuals.
I’ve watched all three of Belgium’s games in Group H and in each one, I didn’t really see team soccer. It’s taken great individual moments for guys like Hazard and Mertens to either score or create winners. In the World Cup, you need more than just individual stars, you need those players to gel, lean on each other and become a team that fires on all cylinders.
Also, I know Belgium won its group with three wins, but it was perhaps the softest group of the tournament. Algeria is pretty decent, but South Korea and Russia played some terrible games.
Still, Belgium trailed Algeria in the first match, until Fellaini and Mertens came off the bench and helped the Red Devils win 2-1. In the second match against Russia, it wasn’t until right at 90 minutes that Hazard created a beautiful chance for Divock Origi to win 1-0. Thursday, the Belgians went a man down and ended up only beating South Korea by a score of 1-0.
So, yeah, winning a group with the maximum 9 points sounds good, but look at the opponents. I will take the US 4 points against Ghana, Portugal and Germany.
I want to rest my case with this, I’ve seen three of the defenders for Belgium, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld all make huge mistakes that can impact a game. The US could capitalize on those miscues if they were to happen. That being said, they are still very good players that I’ve also seen dominate games.
There could have been worse for the US: Brazil, the Dutch, Argentina. Belgium is a very beatable team.
Still, a tough team awaits and for the US to advance, the beatable must be beaten.